Land of the midnight fun?
January 2, 2008 11:55 AM   Subscribe

Considering visiting Yellowknife (NWT) this summer - would a city person enjoy it?

A friend of mine is moving to Yellowknife and I am now presented with what could be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit this summer (likely July or August). Since cost of the ticket alone is something that I will need to be actively saving for right now so that I can book early (ticket will be 1000+ bucks round-trip), I'm trying to research whether I'd really have a good time there. It is not a trip I've even considered before now, and I'm hoping to make up my mind in the next few weeks.

I know I'd love to visit my friend, but I'm much more of a city person than anything. As far as I hear, the city itself is pretty cool but small, and that a tourist there would probably be most interested in things like hiking. I haven't done any serious outdoor activities in years, but I wouldn't rule them out altogether - neither would I structure an entire trip around them. I do like swimming but am not convinced that this is a possibility there (my friend thinks otherwise).

If you've been to (or live in) Yellowknife, would you recommend for someone thinking about visiting - places to see, things to do? Would midnight sun be fun for a visitor or merely disorienting? Would this city girl enjoy it there, or should I save my money and go to Europe instead?
posted by SassHat to Travel & Transportation around Yellowknife, NT (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Its quite a small town. You could see the sights in a day or two. You might look into flightseeing. I'm with you on the swimming, the water will be freezing. That said, it is beautiful. Give the outdoors a try, you wont regret it. Consider postponing your trip until Oct/Nov, when it will start getting dark. The northern lights alone would be worth the trip. Quite possibly the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.
posted by itsamonkeytree at 12:21 PM on January 2, 2008

Doooo eeeet!!!
The NWT are great.
It's warm [hot, even!] in the summertime. Swimming is totally an option. In water cleaner than any you've ever seen.
Well, not right in yellowknife, of course, but very close.
Outdoor activities are the things of choice, but don't worry about being a city girl. You'll have fun doing them, I promise.

Everybody goes to europe. You're talking about memories, here.

Also - if you can bear hardship [ie: greyhound] you can go for 1/3 the cost, and you get a very real sense of the scale you're dealing with.
posted by Acari at 12:23 PM on January 2, 2008

yes yes yes to above. If you can see the northern lights from there you won't ever forget it.
posted by Acari at 12:24 PM on January 2, 2008

My interests are opposite yours: I like to hike and am not too excited by city stuff, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

I visited Yellowknife a couple years ago and I didn't think there was all that much to hold a person's interest in the city itself. The Back Bay area is pretty nifty and there are some interesting museum-type things, but a lot of the city had that strip mall, big box store, and suburban cul de sac look that isn't very nice. Maybe with a local guide, you'd do better, but I didn't find there was much to hold my attention in the city beyond a few days. I don't want to be negative about Yellowknife: I wouldn't recommend my home town for anyone who isn't into outdoor pursuits either. I'd be interested to hear from any Yellowknife residents who feel differently.

That said, there are nice trails in and near the city for short hikes. It was far too cold to swim while I was there in October, but I don't see why it wouldn't be a possibility in the summer (we visited a few parks with swimming beaches). If you are at all into canoeing or kayaking, you could probably have a good time on the many lakes in the area. I don't think you'll be able to see much in the way of northern lights in July or August.
posted by ssg at 12:40 PM on January 2, 2008

I live in Yellowknife!

The city isn't that bad, but I grew up here and am used to it. Compared to a lot of southern cities I find it has a lot more culture per capita. Down south though, you have the option of driving for an hour or two and going to another (bigger?) city. Edmonton is a 15 hour drive away. I'm not sure how interested you'd be in seeing local plays or things like that though.

A lot of people move here after their post secondary school and a lot of retirees go down to BC so we're a pretty young population overall. There are a couple cool bars in town (Le Frolic, The Black Knight) and some pretty cool spots to go out for meals (Bullock's Fish and Chips, The Wildcat Cafe).

Aside from outdoorsy type stuff, I'm not too sure if there'd be much for you to do though. Tourist stuff you could probably clear out in an afternoon. Old town has a lot of character, the museum is worth a walk through, Pilot's Monument is nice to see the city from...

Swimming is totally possible and fun. A nice spot is along Cameron river about 45 minutes out of town on the Ingraham Trail. There are some small rapids and a circulating pool. Riding the rapids in and then relaxing in the tube going around the pool is really nice in July and August. Close to the rapids and pool there's a short walk to see the small falls along the river. If you're feeling a bit more adventurous there's a 45 minute hike into the large Cameron Falls which are really beautiful.

When people first move to Yellowknife, the constant summer light can get to them, but it shouldn't be much of an issue when you're visiting. You'll just be here for a bit, you'll be okay with staying up late and you don't need to worry about getting up in time for a job.

I'm sure I'm forgetting something but feel free to ask for details on anything. Email's in my profile or just ask here.

(I'm totally getting a Yellowknife meetup eventually)
posted by ODiV at 3:01 PM on January 2, 2008

Oh, I just remembered something which speaks to your "city girl" question. A friend of mine went to school in Toronto and is from here. After she came back from school she was going on about missing Toronto and how she's a city girl now and how she was hoping to move there and never come back (I'm paraphrasing). In Toronto she was used to going out on the town, catching shows by musicians who she had heard of, etc. Since she has been back in Toronto I've heard a lot about how she misses Yellowknife. I'll try to find out what she does here and what she'd suggest to you.

Do mosquitoes bother you?
posted by ODiV at 3:06 PM on January 2, 2008

Response by poster: Do mosquitoes bother you?

Are we talking like, sleeping under a net mosquitoes, or just the regular kind?
posted by SassHat at 5:39 PM on January 2, 2008

It depends on a few factors. If it's been a wet spring then we seem to get more. The wind obviously helps keep them down. Also, there's fewer in town than in the bush. They have been known to drive camping tourists out. On calm summer nights the bugs can be maddening if you are canoing on Back Bay.
posted by ODiV at 8:22 PM on January 2, 2008

So I talked to my friend and she said that the people here, the comfortable bar scene, and her hobbies were big factors in her liking Yellowknife. Unfortunately, weekly poker games with friends and attending an arts and crafts class on a regular basis aren't going to be possible for you.

The big one that I missed though, is Folk on the Rocks. It's a weekend long music festival, usually with a big Canadian act or two. It's a great festival to chill out at and is an excellent primer on Yellowknife attitude. Looks like this year it's taking place the weekend of July 18th.
posted by ODiV at 12:05 PM on January 3, 2008

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